M+E Connections

PacketFabric: Private, Optical WAN’s Being Transformed by New Software-Defined Network Automation

As enterprises increasingly move to a hybrid cloud infrastructure that includes multi-tenant colocation data centers, IT teams are looking for ways to turn Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity into a self-service component of an agile cloud architecture, according to PacketFabric.

According to Gartner, by 2025, 75% of large enterprises will build self-service infrastructure platforms to enable rapid innovation, PacketFabric notes.

On Dec. 15, during the webinar “Understanding and Implementing WAN-as-a-Service,” PacketFabric executives explained how private, optical WAN is being transformed by new software-defined network automation.

Thus far, WAN-as-a-Service has been limited to Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel overlays, according to PacketFabric. But new forms of software-defined networking (SDN) automation are transforming private, optical WAN services that are self-served through portals and REST application programming interfaces (APIs).

WAN-as-a-Service can deliver high-speed data center and cloud connectivity in minutes with Software-as-a-Service- (SaaS)-like consumption models, even as granular as 100Gbps connectivity by the hour, according to PacketFabric.

“Why WAN-as-a-Service?” Because it offers cloud agility, Alex Henthorn-Iwane, PacketFabric chief marketing officer, pointed out at the start of the webinar.

“Most enterprises – the vast majority – have a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy,” he said, pointing to data indicating 93% of enterprises have such a strategy.

“There’s a profusion of cloud in the enterprise architecture today and the reason for that is all about agility – the ability to shift and change to different business conditions, requirements, etc., particularly because everything is becoming digital. That’s sort of pretty much an obvious fact,” he said.

Agility is so important to have today because “you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

He pointed to a comment by Gartner analyst and vice president Don Scheibenreif, who said: “We are not planning for one future. We need to plan for many possible futures.”

“And that is just the reality of business today,” according to Henthorn-Iwane. “Your digital business success is just too important to leave to a legacy set of models whether for technology or the business models,” he said, adding: “Nobody can withstand the pressures of change. You need to kind of evolve all of your technology and the network and the WAN is no exception to that.”

He went on to point out: “The traditional WAN for many, many years was basically an Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) service-based underlay to connect enterprise premises.” The problem is it just was not a very flexible service, he said.

Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) adoption has much to do with VPN Internet overlay for reasons that include lower Internet cost vs. MPLS, he noted. Another factor: improved security, he said.

He’s heard some people say something to the effect of “the Internet may not be as reliable or secure as private underlay networking but isn’t the performance about the same?” But “it really depends on the use case,” he noted.

Raw latency, meanwhile, is similar for Internet, cloud and private underlay, he said. However, VPN “encapsulation and other factors significantly impact performance,” he noted.

About 2 GBs are generally the upper limit to what can be pushed through a tunnel. But the average person will never hit that threshold working from home, so a tunnel will work fine, according to Henthorn-Iwane.

With any level of scale, however, private underlay crushes VPN overlay performance and throughput, according to PacketFabric. That is why Direct Connect and equivalent services exist.

The cloud core is where performance at scale is needed but that is something “you just can’t get from tunnel overlays,” Henthorn-Iwane added.

“The whole huge shift to hybrid or remote work… just shifted the footprint of bandwidth in a lot of networks overnight almost but that is actually the norm now,” he said.

Traditional interconnection choices are a major drag. However, “the good news is that you can actually get private, optical interconnection in minutes,” he noted.

Explaining that the PacketFabric network “delivers a diverse set of connectivity services,” he noted that it offers: point to point connectivity, hybrid cloud connectivity, multi-cloud routing and any-to-any networking.

“The thing that I love most about all this is that technology is basically fashion: What’s old becomes new again,” according to Anna Claiborne, CTO, chief product officer and co-founder of PacketFabric. “VPN tunnels are the bell-bottoms of the technology world and they’re back in fashion again,” she said.

The executives went on to provide a demonstration for viewers.